This is a famous trick that many dog owners teach their dogs. There are two ways to teach this trick: the first is by catching the behavior with the clicker. Many dogs lay on their backs, especially if they're looking for a belly rub. If you notice your dog doing this often, click this behavior and then associate the action with the command, Play Dead. The second way of teaching this trick is by using the touch stick to shape your dog's behavior. This method is outlined below. Play Dead is a fun trick to teach, and can be used in conjunction with Limp—Trick #49 and Crawl—Trick #50 for the Bang performance: Trick #52.
Step 1: Have your dog lay down. Take your touch stick, or with your treat in hand, slowly guide it so that your dog moves into the 'Play Dead' position. Click and treat. Repeat until he gets into the 'Play Dead' position without help from the touch stick. Step 2: Keep repeating the process while saying, "Play Dead!" See if he'll do it at your command. Step 3: In different training sessions, shape and perfect the trick by only clicking when he is in the exact position you want him to be in (i.e., legs in the air, paws bent, unmoving, etc.).
When I taught Caspian this trick, I started by having him lay down. I slowly moved the touch stick saying softly, "Touch," from one side of his head to the other side to get him to roll onto his back. When he got onto his back, I clicked and treated. I repeated this several times until he understood that he had to roll onto his back to get his treat. I stopped using the touch stick at this point and instead used a hand signal (hold first three fingers out, rotating hand around) as he did his trick each time. At this point, I got picky. I would only treat if he was in the exact position I wanted, with his paws bent and his legs sticking up in the air. Each time he did this, I would click and treat, saying my command, "Play Dead" until he could respond to my command.
He stands up to touch the stick rather than roll over to do it. This part of the training process depends on you. Be very gentle in your movements and commands. Move the touch stick around slowly as you say in a low voice, "T...o...u...c..h..." If you are slow and steady in your voice and actions, your dog's actions will be less reckless, too!
Tip: "Combine this trick with Limp and Crawl for the 'Bang' performance!"